Chris Hoffman

Chris Hoffman is a technology writer and all-around computer geek. He's as at home using the Linux terminal as he is digging into the Windows registry. Connect with him on Google+.

Product keys are becoming less and less common these days, but if you have a piece of software on your computer—and can’t find its product key—this simple program can help you extract it.

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Mozilla Firefox uses a Firefox account to sync your passwords, bookmarks, and other browsing data between devices. If you’re leaving Firefox behind, you may want to delete your account to remove all your personal data from Firefox’s servers.

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Before you do anything, run a speed test to see how your internet is performing. Some connections are just too slow to play videos at high quality settings without buffering.

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With Yahoo suffering massive data breaches and selling itself to Verizon, you may want to delete that old Yahoo account. If you still have important data in your account, you can download much of it before you delete it, too.

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Companies are making it harder and harder to actually get a human being who can help you solve a problem. Call them, and you’ll often end up in a phone tree, asked to enter number after number or speak your issue for an automated system.

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Until recently, Windows 10 store games could only be played when connected to the internet. Microsoft has thankfully changed this, but as usual, they had to make things complicated: You can only have one “designated offline device” at a time.

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Feel like you forgot to log out of Gmail on your friend’s computer? Google makes it easy to see all the devices—laptop, phone, tablet, and otherwise—logged into your Google account. You can view both a list of IP addresses that have accessed it, and a list of devices that have actively used your account in the last 28 days.

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Much of the data on your Android phone or tablet is backed up by Google (or the individual apps you use) automatically, but what is being saved for you, and what do you need to save for yourself?

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If you’ve tampered with your Chromebook—to install Windows on your Chromebook, for example—you may have replaced its BIOS with a third-party option. Here’s how to roll all your changes back and turn that Windows or Linux PC back into a Chromebook.

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On modern versions of Windows, you’ll see a “ProgramData” folder on your system drive—usually the C:\ drive. This folder is hidden, so you’ll only see it if you show hidden files in File Explorer.

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Gamers are accusing NVIDIA’s new drivers of spying on you, collecting more data with new telemetry services. But NVIDIA isn’t spying on you—or, at least, NVIDIA isn’t gathering more data than it already was, and most of that data is required for it to work properly.

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Chromebooks don’t officially support Windows. You normally can’t even install Windows—Chromebooks ship with a special type of BIOS designed for Chrome OS. But there are ways to install Windows on many Chromebook models, if you’re willing to get your hands dirty.

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Microsoft is now more aggressively pushing taskbar and action center ads for Microsoft Edge. These are just one of the many types of advertising in Windows 10. Here’s how to make Edge stop nagging you.

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Windows 10, like Windows 8 before it, is integrated with Microsoft’s online services. Microsoft would prefer you sign into Windows with your Microsoft account, although you can still create a local account. Certain features are only available if you sign in with a Microsoft account, however.

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Apple Maps doesn’t automatically detect your Home address. If you move, Apple Maps and its widget will keep telling you how long it will take to drive to your previous home address—until you give it your new one.

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Whether you saw a message saying a virus was detected, or your computer just seems slow and unreliable, you’ll want to scan for malware on your PC and remove any you find.

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Modern PCs ship with a feature called “Secure Boot” enabled. This is a platform feature in UEFI, which replaces the traditional PC BIOS. If a PC manufacturer wants to place a “Windows 10” or “Windows 8” logo sticker to their PC, Microsoft requires they enable Secure Boot and follow some guidelines.

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Got a bunch of files you want to rename, but don’t want to go through them each one by one? Windows provides more ways to do this than you may realize.

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USB drives should automatically appear in Windows Explorer when you connect them to your computer. Follow these troubleshooting steps if Windows doesn’t show a connected drive.

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Chromebooks aren’t “just a browser”—they’re Linux laptops. You can easily install a full Linux desktop alongside alongside Chrome OS and instantly switch between the two with a hotkey, no rebooting necessary.

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Android is very customizable–many of its features are just defaults, and can be swapped out for third-party alternatives without any rooting required. When it comes to iOS, well…not so much.

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Windows 8 asked you to “Trust This PC” after you signed in with a Microsoft account. This message is gone in Windows 10, replaced with a new “Trusted Devices” system that works differently.

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Starting with the Windows 10 Creators Update, which comes out this spring, anyone who installs the Bash environment will get Ubuntu 16.04 (Xenial). But, if you’ve previously installed Bash in the Anniversary Update, you’ll be stuck with Ubuntu 14.04 (Trusty) until you manually upgrade.

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Apple claims their live streams are only available in Safari on macOS and iOS. But you don’t have to miss the new iPhone launch if you’re using a Windows PC or Android device. Apple doesn’t make it obvious how to do this, but you can watch its live events on any operating system.

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Need to extract an archive or compress some files? Avoid big-name programs like WinZip and WinRAR, which are packed with nags and advertisements. Modern versions of Windows have integrated support for ZIP files, and anything else is best managed with the free, open source 7-Zip.

about 3 months ago - by  |  7 Replies